In the last month alone, four high school football players from across the U.S. have died from game-related injuries.
The Guardian recently reported that on Monday morning (Oct. 5), Kenny Bui, a high school senior in Seattle, died in the hospital from a traumatic brain injury he got during a football game last week; just a week earlier, Evan Murray from New Jersey died from internal bleeding after being hit during a game; and in September Ben Hamm from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, died eight days after being injured during a game and Tyrell Cameron from Winnsboro, Louisiana, actually died during a game.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR), 118 students died from injuries caused by high school football in the U.S. from 1982 to 2013. In 2014, a total of five high school players died.
High school football players are especially at risk. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, high school football players are significantly more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries like broken necks, permanent disability, brain damage or death, than college players are. USA Today has pointed out that, "high school players are strong enough for high-velocity hits -- unlike players in youth football -- but their brains are not fully mature and are therefore more susceptible to second-impact syndrome, a potentially fatal circumstance in which a player is concussed once and then a second time before he is fully recovered from the first."
Kevin Guskiewicz, the founding director of NCCSIR, told USA Today that in fact, "95% of second-impact syndrome deaths are in athletes under the age of 18."
As a result, a number of high schools throughout the country have been re-thinking whether the risk is worth continuing to have a football team at all -- and many are doing away with the sport altogether. CBS News recently reported that "the number of high school football players in the U.S. has declined by 25,000 over the past five years," and that schools in Missouri, Maine and New Jersey "have canceled or cut short their seasons this year due to injuries or low student interest."
Adult pro players are also growing increasingly concerned over brain injuries. Earlier this year, the NFL agreed to pay up to $5 million per person to thousands of former players who are now dealing with serious brain injuries as a result of repeated head trauma.
Penny Gilbert, whose sixteen-year-old son Damon James died of a football injury in 2013, summed the situation up concisely in a 2014 interview with USA Today Sports: "No one should die playing the game they love."